Monday, March 2, 2009

Enable, not strangle...

As an agile coach with successful experience in agile applications, it can be frustrating at times when working with a new group. A better way can be obvious but you see peers facing a train head-on while looking down at the tracks directly in front of them. The question is, can you really do anything when someone isn't interested?

I think this is the fundamental struggle in learning to be a coach. Just because you know (or believe) you have the answer, doesn't mean you can actually convince others of that.

Lately I've dug myself a little hole. As much as I use Rypple, retrospectives, and many other feedback methods, I still have to confess that I have missed things and made a few large mistakes. With certain groups, my desire to invoke change has led me to focus more on the change than on the people involved. I've been on the other side of this situation and know how dangerous it can be.

So... how can we measure when we have sunk into this situation? How do we keep an eye on our own actions and words to insure we are continuing to be a valuable mentor and coach?

I'm going to propose that resistance and negativity are two great ways.

If I'm using negative words or am resistant to listening or compromising, then I'm not in a good place. If the peers I'm trying to communicate with are responding with stress, fear, or negativity, then clearly I'm not making a positive impact.

Seth Godin talks about finding reasons to say yes instead of finding reasons to say no.

Krshna posted an interesting concept about Ohm's law and applying the physics of an electric circuit to agile. In both domains, resistance is a form of waste.

As a coach, we can't always know the best way to pitch an idea or message to the person we are directing it at, but we need to be very good at knowing when we've wandered across the interface of safety and discomfort well into the realm of fear and chaos.

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